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Northrop Grumman and US Air Force Research Laboratory partner to provide critical advanced technology in space solar power

(11 December 2019 - Northrop Grumman) Northrop Grumman is working with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on a project to rapidly infuse space technological innovations to incrementally develop component technologies needed for a prototype solar energy collection system.

The project is designed to provide constant, consistent and logistically agile power to expeditionary forces operating in unimproved areas such as forward operating bases. These forces require assured power that will be transmitted via radio frequency (RF) from spacecraft.

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An artistic representation showcases the capture of solar energy in space that is precisely beamed it to where it is needed through the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project. (courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

“Northrop Grumman has been a proud partner of U.S. Air Force space initiatives for many decades,” said Candace Givens, vice president, program management, Northrop Grumman. “We are dedicated to developing and providing innovative space solar technology and hardware to ensure mission success for our expeditionary forces around the globe.”

Northrop Grumman is developing and delivering the critical hardware elements to AFRL to support space-based experiments for rapidly prototyping and demonstrating this leading-edge technology.

As stated in a recent Air Force press release, “Energy is a strategic enabler and potential vulnerability for our nation and our Department of Defense (DoD),” said Col Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. “To ensure DoD mission success, we must have the energy we need at the right place at the right time. The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project is a very interesting concept that will enable us to capture solar energy in space and precisely beam it to where it is needed. SSPIDR is part of AFRL’s ‘big idea pipeline’ to ensure we continue to develop game-changing technologies for our Air Force, DoD, nation, and world.”

SSPIDR will study and analyze the concept of a space-based power collection and transmission capability using light weight, high efficiency solar cells coupled with RF transmitters to meet the project objectives. The project will culminate by testing the components of a space-based power collection and transmission demonstration system, capable of capturing solar energy and converting to RF energy for beaming power to the ground.